NTSB Releases Preliminary Report on Stretch Duck 7
The National Transportation Safety Board has released a preliminary report on the July 19, 2018, sinking of the amphibious passenger vessel Stretch Duck 7, owned and operated by Ride the Ducks Branson, in Table Rock Lake, near Branson, Missouri. 17 people died in the incident, including one crewmember.
Local forecasts at the time included thunderstorm warnings, and winds of over 70 mph were encountered by a nearby vessel. The Stretch Duck 7 was carrying 31 people: 29 passengers and two crewmembers. The vessel sank in approximately 15 feet of water and came to rest on the lake floor at a depth of 70 feet.
No conclusions are reached in the report, rather it recaps events and investigations after the incident. Some key questions, raised in the media, therefore remain unanswered by the NTSB report: Who told the captain to take the boat out when a storm was forecast? What safety features, if any, were adopted on the duck boat after a 2002 NTSB report into the sinking of the Miss Majestic made several recommendations to improve duck boat safety?
Table Rock Lake is a navigable waterway and the Stretch Duck 7 was a Coast Guard-inspected passenger vessel. The United States Coast Guard declared the accident a major marine casualty, and the NTSB is the lead federal investigative agency. 33 interviews of witnesses, vessel operators, inspectors, and company officials were conducted on scene. The investigative work and interviews will continue, and the NTSB will participate in the upcoming Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation.
The Stretch Duck 7 was salvaged on July 23 and transported to a secure facility. Investigators inspected and tested operational systems on board the vessel. The vessel was equipped with a video recording system, which was recovered from the sunken vessel. Investigators are attempting to access data on the system’s hard drive. A SIM card for the video recording system was also recovered. The card’s video files were accessed by engineers at the NTSB laboratory and a preliminary report has been prepared. Other electronic devices such as cell phones and a camera were recovered and shipped to NTSB labs.
The NTSB has investigated other amphibious vessel accidents, including the 1999 sinking of the DUKW boat Miss Majestic near Hot Springs, Arkansas; the 2010 collision between a DUKW boat and a tug and barge in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and the 2015 road collision between a DUKW boat and a motor coach in Seattle, Washington.